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Shakespeare is the most famous British playwright in history. People know his name in almost every country in the world. But who exactly was William Shakespeare? That is the question! Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon on 23 April, 1564. Families were big in those days. William had seven brothers and sisters. But his parent’s weren’t poor; his father, John Shakespeare, was a successful businessman who bought and sold leather and wool. His mother was the daughter of a rich farmer. When Shakespeare left school, he went to work for his father. But soon after, he met and fell in love with Ann Hathaway, the daughter of a farmer who lived in Stratford. They got married in December 1582, and just five months late, their first daughter, Susanna, was born. William was 18. Ann was 25. What did Shakespeare do for the next ten years? We don’t know exactly. We don’t know why he gave up a good job in his father’s business and moved to London. We don’t know exactly when or why he became an actor and playwright. All we know is that in 1592 he wrote his first play. After that, his plays became popular very quickly, and he made a lot of money. Four hundred years ago, Shakespeare built a theatre – The Globe – here in the center of London. It was one of London’s first theatres. It was round and had no roof over the center – like the theatres of ancient Rome. OK in Rome – not such a good idea in cold, rainy London! The people of London loves going to the theatre. The globe could hold three thousand people. Some people sat to watch the plays; other stood in the middle, in front of the stage. The audience were usually noisy, often clapping and cheering, and shouting to the actors – and there were only actors, no actresses. Young boys played the parts of women. It often rained in London then, too. And everyone got very wet. In 1610, after about twenty-five years in London, Shakespeare came back here to Stratford. He was rich, and he had a big house where he enjoyed life with his family and friends. But he didn’t stop writing plays. What kind of plays did William Shakespeare write? Well, he wrote thirty-nine plays. Some of them are comedies, for example, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Comedy of Errors. They have happy endings. Others are stories from English history, for example, stories about the kings of England. They are very patriotic. Queen Elizabeth 1 often went to see them. And the others are tragedies, such as Hamlet and MacBeth – these are sad, dark stories of murder and revenge. Shakespeare died on his fifty-second birthday in 1616. He is buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford. But the characters in his plays are still with us today.
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